Same product, different marketing

subway violinist

You might have heard of the “violin experiment,” some of which is shown in the video clip above. This event teaches us a lot about human nature, more than a simple marketing experiment, but the marketing lessons are valuable to all of use. So here’s the full story.

The experiment

On January 12, 2007, a man standing in the arcade just outside a subway station in Washington, D.C. started to play the violin.

He wore a T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap.  Over the course of 45 minutes, he played six pieces, including two by Bach and one by Schubert.

Because it was rush hour, it was crowded.  During his performance, cameras showed exactly 1,097 people pouring through the station, most of them on their way to work during the morning rush.

According to video footage, three minutes went by before anyone noticed at all. 

A middle aged man turned to notice the musician. He barely altered his gait, and then hurried to catch the next train. 

Thirty seconds later, the violinist received his first tip: A woman threw a dollar bill into his open violin case.  She did it hurriedly, like someone flicking a cigarette butt to the curb.

A few minutes later, another man leaned against the wall to listen to the violinist.  Three minutes later, the man looked at his watch and started to walk again.  He, too, had a train to catch.

The one who seemed to pay the most attention was a three-year-old boy.  He was in tow at the hem of his mother’s skirt, hurriedly being dragged along, the kid’s head following the violinist even as he was being pulled away.

Several other children had the same reaction. All their parents, without exception, kept the children in tow as they moved on.

Final results

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only seven people stopped and stayed for any length of time.

About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. 

He collected $32.17.  No one applauded.

Only one person out of the 1,097 who passed through the arcade recognized the violinist, a concert performer named Joshua Bell.

She patiently waited for him to finish, then went up to say hello to Bell, one of the most celebrated musicians in the entire world, who had agreed to take part in this unusual social experiment. 

He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Three days earlier, Bell had sold out a theater in Boston playing the same repertoire.  The average ticket price for that performance was $112.

What to take away

People have drawn quite a few conclusions from this experiment, including how our appreciation of beauty is affected by context, perception, and priorities. More on some of these later.

For someone familiar with the three pillars of marketing, the main lesson is obvious: Your audience can make or break exactly the same product. That’s what makes the concept of an audience important enough to be a pillar in the first place.

You can look at the classical concert fans as the “right” audience and the subway riders as the “wrong” audience, but that’s a bit of an oversimplification. Let’s face it, many of those subway riders must have enjoyed going to classical music performances once in a while. And many of the concertgoers at Bell’s show must have commuted to their jobs on public transit. In marketing terms, you can’t make a comparison just by the demographics of each group.

So what else is going on?

Timing, that’s what. You’ve probably seen advertising in the media change its whole “vibe” before holidays, big sporting events, festivals and other events that most people get caught up in. That’s because businesses have learned which events impact them and how people’s buying habits change relative to the timing of the event.

Something similar is going on with the violin performance. The theatergoers have set aside both money and time to enjoy a nice evening of music. For the commuters, however, their driving interest is to get to work on time, so very few of them will be likely to stop and listen, even if they love classical violin.

The bottom line: timing is also part of your audience analysis. Your audience is likely to have different challenges and pain points at different times. It’s a good idea not to overlook that.

The other factor

Although audience is the most important pillar in this marketing experiment, our old friend trust plays a part here as well. Probably a number of people in that Boston theater had never heard of Joshua Bell until that night. Of course, some of the audience, must have, but otherwise, where would the trust have come from? The answer is that people actually trusted the theater, and the performer based on his association with the theater. After all, theaters are designed to create an emotional bond between performers and audiences. Subway stations are definitely not designed for this purpose.

The result was that commuters didn’t trust that there could ever be a good musical performance in the station arcade. So they assumed that the violinist could not be any good.

Conclusion

Making your affiliate marketing sound like concert-grade music requires a great deal of thought and planning. But if you take the steps – and time it right – the difference to your bottom line can be huge.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Handling criticism, part 2

criticism

In the previous blog entry, I introduced some general ideas about how to deal with the online criticism that some people will inevitably throw at your business, followed by an example of a recent exchange of mine.

This time, I’m going to lay out all the steps I used, in order, so that you can use them too when you’re confronted with problematic comments or reviews.

Listen

The last thing you want to do is misunderstand someone, because if you quickly shoot back with something irrelevant or inappropriate, it just makes your situation worse. It’s a mistake to think that every negative comment is an attempt at trolling. Many of them are not.

Question

Once you believe you understand the other person, it’s time to ask at least a question or two. They could well have a serious issue that you had no idea existed, and it takes questioning to bring this kind of thing out into the open. Ignore what they have to say and the issue persists. Not a good idea.

Remember in the previous example when I was accused of running a scam. I asked what I was promising, and not delivering, in the ad that got Ken so worked up. It pays to ask things like this. He may have spotted something unintentional that I could have easily changed. In this case, he hadn’t, but it’s still important to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity.

Set boundaries

Some people are very quick to personalize criticism and conclude that it has to be a reflection on them, somehow. In reality, that’s almost never the case when someone is criticizing or reviewing a business.

It’s about your site, not about you.

Don’t be negative, unless you can make it funny

Actually, if you’re a basically serious type, don’t even try to be funny in the positive parts of your response. If you’re sure that you have a good sense of humor – and that most people who know you agree – then you can venture into joke territory. It’s more important to be true to your voice.

That said, a well-played line can go a long way toward diffusing a tense situation. This sandwich board is one of the best example’s I’ve ever seen.

sandwich-board

If all else fails, block them!

Genuine trolls will get tedious, repeat themselves, and provide no useful feedback at all. You’re much too busy to waste any more time with these types. Get them off your screen.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Handling criticism, part 1

criticism

When you have a business with any traffic, you can expect a regular stream of criticism, so your skill in handling criticism the right way is incredibly important.

The wrong way, of course, is to lose your temper and enter a verbal slug match with your critics. The critic might just be trying to find out more about the product you’re selling, for instance. Or, your critic may just be a “Karen” who feeds on combat.

A better approach is to draw the critic into the open, and ask for specifics about why they’re concerned. This approach can not only win over potential buyers, but also deflate any empty trolling.

For an example, here’s a conversation that I recently had with a male Karen that I’m calling “Ken-Ken” for anonymity.

Ken-Ken: Just another work-at-home scam. But what do you expect form someone who runs a business but goes out of his way to conceal his identity?

Me: I don’t conceal my identity at all. You can talk to me any time using my email on the site.

By the way, what is it you think I’m promising that would make this a scam?

Ken-Ken: The scam part is the $500/year for software that you are selling and your claims that anyone will get rich (besides yourself) following your magical instructions. But you know that already so why ask me?

Me: I don’t sell any software, or even any subscriptions for $500/year. You have the wrong business.

Ken-Ken: You need to look at your website.

Me: Again, I don’t sell software; I just recommend various products for online entrepreneurs that are (in my opinion) nice to have. I’m definitely not saying they’re needed for getting rich.

Also, I sure as hell don’t make any claims that people will get rich following “my magical instructions.” They’re not magical and they’re not original to me: they’re actually a common marketing strategy that has a good track record of success.

Ken-Ken: And you get a sales commission for the products you are flogging. A good way to spot a grifter is someone who tells you that he will make you rich but wants nothing in return. It reminds me of that orange guy who ran for president and said he would pay for his own campaign – it never happened.

Me: Of course I want something in return. I hope my audience will like some of what I recommend enough to buy it. I just don’t require them to buy anything. That’s not a scam and I think you know it.

Ken-Ken: As you inflate the value of your magic formula, it would be a safe bet that you are upselling other product as well. As the things you are selling are get-rich schemes it is kind of self-evident that you don’t have much interest in providing value.

Me: I am providing value in my course and coaching. People who don’t like the products I link to simply don’t buy them. Just like with standard advertising. The other vendors have nothing to do with my value.

Ken-Ken: Like many of the people running coaching scams, you seem like you could really do well if you turned your hand to some productive enterprise that enriches others as well as yourself.

Me: I very honestly believe that my coaching does enrich others. I also don’t make wild promises that require others to give me money, which is what a scam is. This ad doesn’t promise anything.

I’ll grant that the make-money-online space IS full of scams and con artists, but there are also many of us who are actually honest.

Ken-Ken: When all you can do is repeat yourself it’s time for a new grift.

Me: I can do (and have done) a lot more. In your case, I thought I had to repeat myself to you in order to explain what a scam is. Obviously that’s not going to work; you’re going to believe whatever you want, accurate or not. That’s okay; everyone who reads your posts is going to see that you have nothing whatsoever to support your accusations.

Ken-Ken: Everyone who reads your promise of instant wealth with no further work should, hopefully, see the holes in the scam.

Me: Everyone knows I never promised instant wealth. Apart from a few lottery tickets, instant wealth doesn’t even exist. Yet again, you decided that you’re only going to believe a personalized fiction for yourself. Great. Knock yourself out.

From an Affiliate Swim ad comment section in Facebook

As you can see from the conversation above, one of the best ways of handling criticism is to show a sense of humor. In the next part to this series, we’ll look at some other strategies.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

The Three Pillars of Marketing

If you don’t read anything else on this site, read this.

Every successful marketer in every industry knows about this concept, and you can’t afford not to. If your business doesn’t follow a marketing strategy with all three of these elements solidly in place, it’s guaranteed to fail. There are also a few extra details that are specific to affiliate marketers, which you’ll soon see.

Pillar #1: Audience

Broadly speaking, your audience is everyone who knows that your business exists. They could have learned about it by clicking an ad you placed, by reading an article you wrote, or even by word of mouth.

Every marketer wants as big an audience as possible, because a bigger audience contains more potential customers. The trick is to maximize your audience by spending as little of your resources – money AND time – as you can.

When marketers try to build their audiences, they have two tools at their disposal: the first is content creation, and the second is advertising. Advertising is by far the faster way, but of course it costs money. Whether it’s worth the cost is a completely different topic. Fortunately, a solo entrepreneur can usually buy a few ads at a relatively low cost, so it’s still an option. The free option is to create content that attracts the attention of your audience, but that approach takes much more time to show results, even in the online world.

As for affiliate marketers, most of them purchase ads when growing an audience. They maintain ‘micro-sites’ that are meant to get the viewers interested in whatever product is paying the affiliate a commission. If these sites do their jobs, their audience continues on to the vendor’s sales page.

One final point about audiences: every marketer MUST keep attracting new audience members continually. The reason is that many people will leave your audience sooner or later and forget about your business.

Pillar #2: Trust

Most people don’t spend their hard-earned money by giving it to some random individual on the Internet. They need to trust the person before giving any serious thought to a buying decision. That’s why building trust in your audience is so fundamental. No matter who you are, you won’t earn that trust from everyone in your audience, but a good marketer can earn it from a healthy percentage of audience members.

Nowadays, nearly every successful company that has an online presence uses one of more email lists to build trust. The goal is to show, over a short period of time, that the business truly understands what its email subscribers need or want, and is able to meet those needs. Of course, these series of emails are automated. The market has a number of companies that provide autoresponder services, and the costs are very low percentage of the company’s budget.

Affiliate marketers use automated series of emails to build trust, too. However, in the world of online marketing, it can be difficult to get some people to hand over their email addresses. As a result, affiliate marketers (along with most other kinds of online-only businesses), will use a free offer that they provide people in exchange for an email. This offer needs to be something that people in your audience would consider valuable: an ebook, a video, or a piece of software with an interactive demo, for example.

Pillar #3: Monetization

This is the area that almost every entrepreneur defines well, but – again – it’s useless without the other two. Monetization is simply one of the fancy words for describing what products or services the customers can pay for, and what their prices are.

For affiliate marketers, the monetization is in the commissions they’re paid. Not surprisingly, how much they make depends a great deal on both the commission rate and the size of the market. So unlike many other businesses, every time affiliate marketers choose a new product, they make a new monetization decision.

Final thoughts

One very interesting thing about these elements of marketing strategy is that they come together into the classic model of a sales funnel. The total audience has the greatest number of people (at the top of the funnel) followed by a smaller percentage who trusts your business to some degree, and finally ends with the smallest group: people who are ready to buy and then actually buy.

Most of the effective sales funnels out there are not much more complex than that.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.